Republican former Speaker of the House indicted by federal grand jury

J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in the U.S. House, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he violated banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of “past misconduct” against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago.

Hastert, 73, who has been a high-paid lobbyist in Washington since his 2007 retirement, schemed to mask more than $950,000 in withdrawals from various accounts that violated federal banking laws that require disclosure of large cash transactions, according to a seven-page indictment delivered by a grand jury in Chicago.

The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the “prior misconduct” by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. The unnamed individual has known Hastert for most of that person’s life, the indictment states…

Oops! Sounds like Republican family values strikes again.

The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, also alleges that Hastert lied to FBI agents last December when asked about the withdrawals.

Prosecutors said that in 2010, when the unnamed individual confronted Hastert about the allegations of misconduct, the former speaker agreed to pay out $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” this person.

Over the next five years Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from his various bank accounts, at one point last year delivering $100,000 at a time to the person, the indictment alleges.

Beginning in 2013, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating “possible structuring of currency transactions to avoid the reporting requirements.” Hastert had made more than a dozen withdrawals of $50,000 in cash, which was provided to the unnamed individual every six weeks, the indictment said.

After bank representatives questioned him about the withdrawals, he began taking out less than $10,000 at a time, providing it to the unnamed person at set locations and times, prosecutors say. When Hastert was asked about the withdrawals, the indictment states that he told agents: “I kept the cash.”

However, the indictment states that this is a lie, and Hastert was trying to keep his agreement to pay the unnamed person “secret so as to cover up his past misconduct.”

I’ll never excuse Democrats or Independents for committing the same crimes a number of Republicans have been found guilty of. The crusher is that Republicans present themselves, time after time, as the holy standard for honesty and upright behavior. And that’s just pure hypocrite hogwash.

One again, part of the holier-than-thou crowd, one of the whiners who is paid to campaign against change and progress, gets caught breaking the law.

Shadow pricing, highway robbery, and the price of medication

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the moment a revolution starts, but when it comes to the issue of drug pricing, it’s quite possible that we’ll look back at Dec. 6, 2013, as the day that everything changed.

That was the day that Gilead’s Sovaldi was approved for sale by the FDA. Sovaldi’s launch — and its $84,000 price tag — set off a tsunami of media attention on the issue of medication costs. Never mind that Sovaldi has an incredible cure rate, all of the attention fell squarely on its $84,000 price tag.

Since then pharmaceutical drug pricing has been a regular media hot topic. There was coverage of a recent study that found older drugs were being priced higher in an apparent attempt to keep their prices in parity with newer alternative treatments. That was followed by a report in the Wall Street Journal about how pharmaceutical companies buy the rights to drugs from other manufacturers and then dramatically increase prices:

“On Feb. 10, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. bought the rights to a pair of life-saving heart drugs. The same day, their list prices rose by 525% and 212%.

Neither of the drugs, Nitropress or Isuprel, was improved as a result of costly investment in lab work and human testing, Valeant said. Nor was manufacture of the medicines shifted to an expensive new plant. The big change: the drugs’ ownership…”

Many years ago, back before I got into the healthcare analytics space, I was an investment banker and subject to the rules and regulations laid down by the SEC and FINRA. In that business, we had to be aware of potential client red flags like market manipulation and insider trading. Maybe it’s the training that’s kicking in here, but when I see stories like those strung together above I can’t help but feel like someone’s getting one over on someone else. And while I’m a tried and true capitalist who believes in letting market demand dictate pricing, it’s evident that this pharma pricing strategy may have pushed too far…

What many healthcare professionals have come to realize is that these high prices actually have little to no bearing on the safety, efficacy, or comparative effectiveness of the drug…Talking as a whole, the media coverage on drug pricing is revealing how the system is starting to push back. Companies like Express Scripts are putting their foot down on basic drug pricing and are demanding more information and data regarding the overall cost and safety of drugs.

We also see an emerging trend among payer and provider clients that are now realizing the huge impact that the shadow costs from drug side effects have on their bottom line and patient outcomes, and they too are demanding more transparency in financial and safety drug data in order to make more effective and accurate drug purchasing decisions.

We expect the national debate around drug pricing to intensify and morph to include evaluating drug pricing based on their “fully loaded” costs. After all, it’s we as taxpayers who foot the bill for the bulk of these expenses through the Medicare and Medicaid systems. And we as patients who suffer because we simply can’t afford needed medications anymore.

Brian Overstreet is co-founder and president of AdverseEvents, a California-based healthcare informatics company that improves patient safety and reduces systemic healthcare costs through the comprehensive analysis of postmarketing drug side effect data. This post originally appeared on the company’s RxView blog.

The medical-industrial complex now owns more Congress-creeps than the military-industrial complex. To the same result. American taxpayers pay more and get less for their money than any other citizens in the industrialized West. Money for nothing or less. Subsidizing phony research – or no research – under the blanket description of advancing healthcare.

Sister Megan Rice, freed, ready for more anti-nuclear activism

Megan Rice
Click to enlargeNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Sister Megan Rice at the Isaiah Wall near the United Nations

For more than a year, Sister Megan Rice, 85, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, had caught occasional glimpses of the glittering World Trade Center from her living quarters: the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison on the Brooklyn waterfront.

So when the Volvo she was riding in one morning last week crested the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the skyscraper came into full view, it made a strong impression.

“Oh, my gosh,” Sister Rice exclaimed. Drinking in the scenery and the panorama of New York Harbor, she added, “We’re well on our way.”

It was her fifth day of freedom after two years behind bars for a crime for which she is boldly unapologetic. In 2012, she joined two other peace activists in splattering blood and antiwar slogans on a nuclear plant in Tennessee that holds enough highly enriched uranium to make thousands of nuclear warheads. All three were convicted and sent to prison. But on May 8, an appellate court ruled that the government had overreached in charging them with sabotage, and ordered them set free…

Now, dressed in a sweatsuit that fellow inmates had given her, the nun was traveling to the American headquarters of her order in Rosemont, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. The agenda was to confer with her superiors about her future — one in which she plans to continue her antinuclear activism. One threat was that the federal government might challenge the recent ruling and try to have her thrown back in prison.

“It would be an honor,” Sister Rice said during the ride. “Good Lord, what would be better than to die in prison for the antinuclear cause?”…

Sister Rice, thin but seemingly healthy, was in high spirits and voluble as she talked about her religious order, her atomic radicalization, her life in prison and what may come next…

The pacifists belong to the Plowshares movement, a loose, mostly Christian group that seeks the global elimination of nuclear arms.

For now, at least, Sister Rice is a free woman.

Read the whole article. A tale of the kind of Catholic foot-soldier I occasionally shared a cell with back in the day.

I’m certain one or another of my kin who still are religious are Catholics like this. Or Congregationalists. Or Buddhists. Or non-religious like me, philosophical materialists, spinning the science-based reality dialectic. Before I left the Great Northeastern dynamo I could always find a couple of kindred spirits at annual get-togethers of my extended family. Philosophy didn’t matter as much as a quest for justice as strong as the quest for fire before we evolved into more sophisticated tool-makers.

It’s nice to see someone with liberal sensibilities and opposed to the insanity of nuclear weapons risk it all out of conscience. We have a president somewhere south of Megan Rice’s prison home who says he shares her ideals. Too bad he doesn’t match her courage.

Lawyer in Kenya offers Obama livestock for marriage to Malia

A Kenyan lawyer is offering President Barack Obama 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats in exchange for first daughter Malia Obama’s hand in marriage.

The Nairobi lawyer, who identified himself as Kiprono, said he hopes to meet with the U.S. president during his scheduled visit to Kenya in July to discuss the possibility of bartering the farm animals for the hand of his 16-year-old daughter, who was dubbed one of Time magazine’s most influential teens of 2014…

“People might say I am after the family’s money, which is not the case. My love is real,” he said. “I am currently drafting a letter to Obama asking him to please have Malia accompany him for this trip. I hope the embassy will pass the letter to him. I will hand it over to the U.S. ambassador with whom we have interacted several times.”

The lawyer said his proposal to Malia would be “unique with a twist.”

“If my request is granted, I will not resort to the cliche of popping champagne. Instead, I will surprise her with mursik, the traditional Kalenjin sour milk. As an indication that she is my queen, I will tie sinendet, which is a sacred plant, around her head. I will propose to her on a popular hill in Bureti near my father’s land where leaders and warriors are usually crowned. The place is called Kapkatet, which means ‘victory.'”

Kiprono said Malia would not be living a life of luxury if she agrees to his proposal.

“Ours will be a simple life. I will teach Malia how to milk a cow, cook ugali and prepare mursik like any other Kalenjin woman,” he said.

First, I think this poor lad doesn’t stand a chance. I’m confident mom and pop are raising their daughters to make their own decisions about marriage. Hopefully, as educated, sophisticated, modern young women.

Second, I can’t wait to hear from the rightwing nutballs who will no doubt add this tidbit to the mythology they’ve already constructed in their dim little minds about the president and his national origins.